Needing a shot in the arm, the women’s US national team destroyed Nigeria by 30-plus points in the team’s last exhibition game ahead of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
The Michelob Ultra Arena was the site of a 93-62 win for Team USA over Nigeria.
It was the team’s first win in three exhibition games. “It feels good obviously after dropping two games,” head coach Dawn Staley said. “It puts us in an unfamiliar feeling to come out and play the way we did on both sides of the basketball.”
Now the team will head to Tokyo to begin their run at an unprecedented seventh straight gold medal.
“I’m sure [the players] feel good about it, the coaches feel good about it,” Staley said. “We’re not going to settle with this, we have to continue to stay connected and move to playing our best basketball -- not even tomorrow or the next day [but] when we start pool play.”
Play opens for the women’s national team Tuesday, July 27 against this same Nigerian national team.
From the start of the game, Staley and company made great use of its size inside, dominating NIgeria nearly everywhere on the floor.
“It’s who we are,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “I feel like it’s matching the standard of the dominance of the USA team. So like I said we’re going to do our best to be consistent so at least our teammates know that we’re going to work hard in the paint. After that our talent takes over.”
Four of the five players that scored in double figures for Team USA were either forwards or centers.
Wilson led all scorers with 16 points followed by 14 points from forward Breanna Stewart and 12 points from center Brittney Griner.
“We shared the ball,” Staley said. “We got our bigs involved, [we] made a concerted effort to do that. And then we found ourselves hitting more shots from the outside.”
As a team, the US tallied 32 assists on 35 made field goals.
“This is definitely a good win for us against a good team,” Wilson said. “And we needed that heading on that plane to Tokyo because this was going to be the last ‘test,’ or exhibition game and it did exactly what it needed to do.”
On the other end, Team USA’s collective defense kept any Nigerian player from reaching double-digit points.
“The defense was really good, I don’t think I’ve ever felt myself play defense like that,” Wilson said. “I felt like we were all on one accord and understanding that we have layers to our defense and trusting the fact that someone is going to be there on the help side.”
One point of contention, if there were any, is the 20 turnovers committed by the US.
“We had a cluster of turnovers in the third quarter,” Staley said. “We let our guard down a little bit. But all of that will clean itself up with practice. And we’ll get six days when we get to Tokyo to work on some things.”
While committing those 20 turnovers, Team USA was only able to force Nigeria into 12 turnovers of its own.
For the third straight game, Team USA played without four-time gold medalist Diana Taurasi who has been trying to rehabilitate and rest for Tokyo.
The Nigerian national team also had Los Angeles Spark forwards Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike, who are actively petitioning to be on this year’s roster.
As of now, both have been denied due to “substantial involvement with Team USA over the last 10 years.”